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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gurdwaras join mounting call to stop conversion bill


The Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) has joined the chorus of calls for the government to withdraw Section 107(b) of the Administation of Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 that would allow a parent to convert a minor child to Islam without the consent of the other.

"The MGC wishes to reiterate that any such unilateral conversion of a child by a single parent is not only unconstitutional but is morally wrong and is against good conscience and justice...," said MGC president Jagir Singh in a statement yesterday.

Furthermore, MGC said it was also opposed to Section 51(3)(b)(xi) of the same bill as it would allow a syariah court to determine whether a person who died was a Muslim or non-Muslim.

"This power to decide on the religion of a person has always been with the civil High Court and matters of interpreting provisions in the federal constitution are with the civil High Courts.

"Thus whenever there is a dispute as to the facts of conversion it must be decided by the civil High Court. The amendment thus proposed is unconstitutional," he said.

Jagir said the government must either delete both provisions from the bill or withdraw it altogether.

The call comes following both MCA and MIC expressing shock over the bill and calling it to be withdrawn while the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) had voiced similar concerns.

Critics of single-parent conversion have raised concerns that a spouse could deliberately convert to Islam, together with his or her minor child, in order to win custody of the child in the syariah court.

They argue that the syariah court would naturally recognise and favour the Muslim convert parent, leaving the other non-Muslim parent helpless in trying to win custody of the child.

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